Thursday, 4 November 2010

Alan Wake

I remember a friend showing me screens and trailers of a game in 2005/2006 he was totally jizzing his load over the lighting model and high resolution textures. It was to be the next technical masterpiece on the PC platform, something that would raise the bar for the rest of the industry the way Half-Life 2 had done a year or so previously and as Crytek have done with their Cry Engine since. 

2010 and it’s finally here! Alan Wake! Unfortunately the PC technical masterpiece was shit-canned, but in its place we have an Xbox 360 title that looks none-too shabby.

The game is a story-driven action-adventure title, as such I don’t want to give too much away. Suffice to say the story is a supernatural survival horror piece drawing significant inspiration from the works of Stephen King – the great one is even referenced by Alan Wake in-game as a hero.

Alan Wake is a writer, he goes on retreat to the mountain town of Bright Falls with his wife when a supernatural evil Darkness shows up and ruins Alans vacation.


The entire game is concerned with the contrast of Light and Dark. The enemies (or Taken) are enshrouded in Dark and Wake must utilise Light to defeat them.

It’s an interesting mechanic which requires somewhat of a different mental approach in comparison to the majority of similar games. Your basic armament consists of a simple torch (or flashlight if you prefer) and a 6 round revolver. All Taken are light-sensitive and the torch can be used both defensively to dazzle/knock back and offensively to strip enemies of their protective Darkness shroud while the revolver is used to finish them off.

As you progress through the game this basic armament is supplemented with additional tools to fight the Dark. Ultimately the arsenal available in the game is relatively small, but everything has its use and you’ll have to learn how to use each tool efficiently in order to survive. The torch is your basic tool against the dark (replacements can be found in various sizes and strengths as the game proceeds) but against large groups of Taken you’ll find it just isn’t enough. You can buy yourself some time by setting off a flare, this causes the Taken to recoil and retreat a safe distance allowing you to regain a bit of health, reload your weapons or fire a new battery into your torch. The flare won’t kill the Taken outright but it can take out a good chunk of their Dark shroud if they’re close enough when you set off the flare.

Some of the Taken take a significant amount of light to de-shroud, when attacked by a big group of these bad boys torches and flares alone won’t cut it. The game allows you two WMDs for these situations, the flare gun and the flashbang grenade. Both have a similar largish area of effect packing enough power to de-shroud and kill any Taken in the immediate blast zone outright. The only real difference between the two is range, with the flare gun the longer.

The six-shooter isn’t your only source of firepower though, you can upgrade to one of two variants of shotgun (double barrelled or pump-action) or a hunting rifle. You can only carry one long weapon at a time, but ammo for both tends to be on the scarce side so you’ll find yourself switching to whatever is available on your path. You can put down the tougher Taken quicker with these guns, the shotgun can even take out several in one shot if you pick your shots well enough.

One thing I really like about the guns in this game is the reloading. Tapping the reload button reloads faster. It’s a nice little touch, it gives you something to do during the reload animation and stops you feeling like you’re waiting around while it happens. It’s a bit like the Gears of War active reload system, it turns reloading into a little mini-game rather than a wait-out.


Sorry Remedy, but for me there are quite a few consistent annoyances throughout the game.

Frequent unnecessary use of slow-down. Successful dodges are “rewarded” with slowed down “cinematics”. They look fine, and in a cutscene they’d be awesome, but when you’re actually playing the game they’re more of a pain in the arse than anything else, they interrupt the flow of combat and can cause the camera to swoop away causing you to lose track of the position of your enemies. I know Remedy are famous for “bullet-time” style slow-down from the Max Payne series, but unlike in Max Payne where the slow down was a gameplay mechanic, in Alan Wake it’s just a useless tack-on. In one particular section a train car rolls down a hill, each bounce of the train car results in a blast of slow-down, even after the car is off-screen. WHHHHHYYYYYYY? Just calm it Remedy, all this slow-down doesn’t enhance my experience, running up a hill with periodic slow-down is not a better experience than running up a hill without. It’s slow and jerky and pretty frustrating.

“Hello! I am a bad guy and I’m going to attack you now!”. Ok, nobody actually says that, but they might as well, the approach of Taken is almost always telegraphed with more infuriating slow-down and camera swooping. This is supposedly a Survival Horror title, but stupid crap like this lessens any suspense and atmosphere that the game had. The Taken are supposedly possessed by the Darkness, they should be coming at me unexpectedly from the shadows, from behind the trees, from above, I should need razor sharp reflexes to avoid that first surprise attack. But that’s not the way it is, most of the time the game gives me a crap load of time to de-shroud and finish off the majority of Taken before they get anywhere near me. Maybe it’s a difficulty issue, and maybe it’s something that’s creeping into more and more games, but “Normal” mode doesn’t seem to be posing the challenge it really should.

Wake can only sprint for 7ish seconds. 7 seconds? Come on man, pregnant ladies can manage better than 7 seconds. Fair enough if you want to put some form of stamina in the game, that’s realism, I like realism, 7 seconds is not a realistic sprint length.

Poor aiming mechanism. There is no targeting reticule as such, instead the cone of light from your torch does the job for you. It’s just not a very good replacement in my opinion. If they’re going the no-reticule route I’d have preferred that the camera swoop in and let me aim down the gun sights. Just a preference thing perhaps, but it’s something that irritated me. In addition to that the focussed shine of the torch has an irritating amount of auto-aim that can make quickly changing targets unnecessarily jerky and difficult.

I suppose this ties in to the aiming mechanism: there seems to be little difference in damage dealt by shots to the head, torso or anywhere else. It’s just a bit irritating that taking the time to aim at what should be a critical region nets me no (or at least little perceivable) reward over rough point-and-shoot.

Dude: Where’s my gear? Alan Wake is good at losing stuff. Given the scrapes Alan gets in to it makes logical sense that he loses all or most of his gear between certain sections and chapters, between others however: not so much. For example: if I finish one chapter with a good stock of gear and nothing happens in the story that would logically result in losing said gear, why am I starting the next chapter with nothing? Kinda hedging your bets a bit if several nights in a row you’re being accosted by an evil dark entity, but decide to discard all the gear you found the previous night and then… what? Hope they’ll just have fucked off this time or you’ll just find shit lying around like last time. Riiiiiiight. Worst offense: After defending a chopper prior to take-off, I’m tooled up to the eyeballs, Wake falls out, he’s lost all his gear: this is perfectly reasonable, he’s fallen out of a freakin chopper. But he still has his torch. He still has his torch, but it’s not the torch I had when I got on the chopper. I had the big ass lantern, now I’ve got one of the smaller models. It doesn’t make sense, it’s irritating. And maybe Barry coulda chucked me a couple of flares or something?

Nightmare mode. Hardest difficulty in the game. Locked until you’ve completed the game on another difficulty. Ordinarily if the hardest difficulty is locked it’s because it’s so hard you need a run through on a lower difficulty to prepare you for the hardship. Nightmare mode was, in my honest opinion, kinda piss easy. Ok, maybe piss easy is harsh, but it wasn’t a Nightmare to complete, I think I could’ve made it through as a first playthrough. If you’re a bit of an achievement whore like me then Nightmare mode is worth the 2nd playthrough for the gamerscore, but to a casual gamer there really isn’t enough challenge and due to the games linearity nothing new to see in terms of story to really warrant another playthrough. As such I have to conclude that the replayability of Alan Wake is low.

Worth the Money?

Alan Wake is an interesting game, one I’d recommend gamers play at least once, but I wouldn’t pay much for it. Rental is probably the best option. The games linearity and lack of replayability deny it full-price status for me, furthermore the DLC released for the game has been criticised for adding little to the story and for representing poor value for money in relation to its length (The Writer DLC in particular amounts to ~£5 for 30 minutes play).

A sequel seems to be on the cards. If Remedy go ahead with it I would urge them to revisit their original plans for a more free-roaming game. Get a bit of investigation and discovery in there. Maybe a bit of replayability. Gimmie something I want to pay for.

freedoms_stain, not taken by The Taken, out.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Mirror’s Edge

Who’d have thought running could be so much fun?

Mirror’s Edge is essentially a game about free-running (or parkour if you fancy, or are French). And rather uniquely it’s a game about free-running in First-Person Perspective.

I didn’t think free-running would work in First-Person if I’m totally honest, I’ve always found the more platformy sections of FPS games to be more of a chore than a joy, but Mirror’s Edge does rather buck the trend.

DICE have gotten a lot right here. Not everything works perfectly but there’s a lot here I’d like to see become standard in all FPS games.

First up, how about running? Running and sprinting in the majority of FPS games lacks realism to say the least. Often it feels like your character is some sort of weightless entity gently bobbing in the air, sprinting results in slightly more vigorous bobbing and the sensation of speed is often lacking. Some games bob better than others, but Mirror’s Edge is king. Ok, yeah it’s still essentially bobbing but the sense of acceleration and speed DICE have achieved in Mirror’s Edge ranks it head and shoulders above any other game I’ve played in first person. Other developers need to rip this off, because what they’re coming up with is weak in comparison.

How bout we talk low walls and fences? In too many games these are insurmountable obstacles. Aw, seriously? a low wall? Better be a gate or we ain’t gettin past this mutha! Mirror’s Edge has a vaulting mechanic that allows a smooth vault over low obstacles that also increases your momentum. There’s no reason why this can’t be implemented in every single FPS game. It makes a butt-load of sense. Some games have tried to implement the feature (Call of Duty springs to mind) but it’s clunky and lacks the fluidity of the DICE solution.

Scenery! All games have scenery, but a lot of it, well, most of it, is very much look but don’t touch. That stack of boxes look climbable to you? Yeah, let’s go check it ou- ah, no, it’s just scenery. In Mirror’s Edge if it looks like a person could climb it, you can, and in a fluid realistic manner. People have hands. Hands that can be used to help you up and shit. Amazing!

Rockin the Taijutsu shit. Mirror’s Edge is light on combat, you’re expected to avoid confrontation where possible, but when you need to take a guy out you’ve got some ass-bustin moves to get you there. I don’t think all the unarmed combat aspects of Mirror’s Edge would transfer well into other games, but the disarm-takedown moves are something that other developers should think about. If you get the drop on an enemy it kinda makes sense that you should be able to pull off some cool ninja shit to take them out.

It’s a shame DICE don’t have the rights to Assassin’s Creed, because when it comes to this free-running stuff, DICE in first-person created a better free-running experience than Ubisoft Montreal did in third-person. Considering third-person has long been the home of games with free-running elements that’s quite some achievement. My major complaint with Assassin’s Creed is that it’s free-running on auto-pilot. You hold down the right trigger and point yourself in the right direction and the game does everything for you, auto-jump, auto-roll, auto-climb, auto-bore. In Mirror’s Edge it’s down to you to time jumps, when to roll etc etc. Personally I feel more involved in Mirror’s Edge whereas in Assassin’s Creed I feel more like an observer, and that bores me to tears.

Never played Mirror’s Edge? You can get it for as little as £4 right now. That’s a freakin steal. Do It.

Oh yeah, and the games title music is fucking beautiful

I fell in love with this song the very first time I loaded up the game

freedoms_stain, DO IT! out.

Friday, 15 October 2010

The Sacrifice

I’m a Left 4 Dead fan, and as all good Left 4 Dead fans know The Sacrifice is the newest thing in the Left 4 Dead universe.

Today I got around to playing.

Valve marketed the dlc via a 4-part webcomic which bridges the events between the end of the original L4D game up to the point where the L4D1 and L4D2 survivors encounter each other in the finale of L4D2 dlc campaign The Passing. It does somewhat spoil the “story”, although anyone who’s played The Passing can make a decently informed choice as to what goes down. It’s a worthy read even if you’re not an L4D fan, great artwork and well written, check it out here:

I enjoyed The Sacrifice. It follows the staple L4D formula, fight your way through the hordes of infected through a series of themed areas (The Sacrifice is set primarily in a dockland) followed by a finale event. Although it sounds like standard L4D gameplay I get the feeling that Valve are getting better at designing maps for L4D. Although still largely linear in format they feel a bit less so, some sections let you take the high road or the low road, through the building or around, or a combination of both which means on different plays you can see the level from a few different angles.

The finale occurs in the same area as the finale of previous L4D2 dlc The Passing, again your goal is to raise a bridge this time though you’re required to start a trio of generators scattered around the map rather than fetch gas cans to a single generator in a scavengesque manner a-la The Passing. Starting each generator unleashes a fresh wave of infected complete with tanks. Once all three have been activated the Survivors haul ass to the bridge where the controls have been powered up by your heroic efforts and it can be raised – Yay!… ah, no, crap, a generator has packed in. ONE of you must return to the duff generator and restart it and in the process Sacrifice themselves to save the others.

The cannon as depicted in The Passing and The Sacrifice webcomic has Bill make the ultimate Sacrifice, although when you play the game yourself any of the survivors can fill the role. During my L4D2 Sacrifice play a Jockey managed to snare our teams Louis character and run him off the bridge walkways, I managed to snipe the Jockey leaving the guy playing Louis in prime position to go Sacrifice himself. It’s little unpredictable moments like that which make this game shine.

Predictability is a problem in gaming, scripted events in identical locations limit the replayability of single player campaigns. With L4D Valve have attempted to reduce that predictability by making you play cooperatively with 3 other live people (nice, people can be very unpredictable) and with the introduction of the AI Director.

Rather than relying on scripted waves of enemies L4D relies on the AI Director to determine where and when enemies spawn and attack, and where items and weapons can be found. The difficulty determines how generous the AI director will be, and how aggressive.

This works to an extent, but ultimately the human players will identify the quickest routes, the most common spawn points for weapons and the best strategies for beating back the infected.

The AI Director needs to get smarter, not only direct the enemies within the world, but craft a unique world for each and every game played. Maybe not in its entirety, there could still be a stock of Valve designed areas which could be slotted into the AI Directors design. We would therefore have a number of Valve designed climax points with a randomly generated journey between them crafted by the AI Director.

It’s not an idea that would work for every game, but it would certainly extend the replayability of L4D titles.

Until such a thing is possible we’ll have to rely on Valve drip-feeding us content periodically, or for PC gamers, feeding off the best the mod community has to offer.

Content like The Sacrifice is good, I played it 3 times today, the last time took 28 minutes. It’s a nice addition to the PC game, but is it worth the dlc cost on 360? Not for me, but that’s for you to decide.

Another thing Xbox gamers might want to know is that The Sacrifice campaign is identical for L4D1+2, but in L4D2 you’ll get the benefit of L4D2 weapons and special infected (I believe L4D2 buyers get the NO Mercy campaign from L4D1 thrown in to boot). Something to consider before you shell out for both.

This does enhance my original annoyance at L4D2 seeming like an expansion pack I was being asked to pay full price for, but Valve have made their decision.

Anyhoo, L4D, awesome, freedoms_stain, out.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

I played the original Call of Juarez, it was a decent Western FPS, it had its flaws but I managed to overlook those and get to the end.

I rented Bound in Blood knowing relatively nothing about it, I knew it featured a pair of Brothers as the main protagonists, that’s about it. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that one of those brothers was a younger version of Reverend Ray McCall from the first game and that BiB is in fact a prequel detailing the events that caused Ray to set aside his guns and take up the life of a preacher and how he and his brother Thomas came to incur the wrath of the infamous Juarez.

The story itself is pretty good, you get more out of it if you’ve played the original as BiB gives a lot of back story to the events of CoJ, so if you’ve played both games you get the benefit of that feeling of revelation at the points where both games are tied together.

One of the hallmark features of the series has been its dual character setup, in CoJ you saw the action through the eyes of both Billy and Ray, both with different strengths, weaknesses and capabilities, BiB returns to that tradition. Ray returns in younger form while Billy is replaced with Thomas, who plays relatively similarly to Billy, more agile than Ray, able to climb, packing a lasso and the ability to use a bow, Thomas additionally packs some throwing knives. As in the original Ray with his armoured vest is able to take more damage and excels at dual wielding pistols and can use dynamite while Thomas cannot.

The way the dual character setup works differs in BiB, rather than alternating between characters during the course of the game as in CoJ most chapters allow you to choose whichever character you prefer. I thought this interesting at first, however after my first playthrough playing entirely as Ray (except where no choice was given) I soon realised that there was very little difference to the game whether you play as Ray or Thomas.

For most of the game Ray and Thomas fight side-by-side cooperatively, whether you play as one or the other the only real difference is the weaponry at your disposal with only a few short sections throughout the entire game where the characters branch off for a unique perspective. It makes the dual character slightly irrelevant, particularly in light of the fact that Rifle weapons are the most effective in the game and that both characters can use them.

You spend most of the game playing with an AI (no online co-op) brother at your side. I’ll be honest, it’s not ideal. The AI is pretty useless in a firefight, it’s slow (the game has a sprint function which the AI will NEVER use) and if you get too far ahead they’ll just stay where they are and wait for you to come back – if you go too too far ahead you effectively “die” and have to reload a checkpoint. It’s a pretty frustrating experience and slows the pace of the game down.

There are still some niggles leftover from the original that haven’t been cleaned up. Character movement still feels wrong, too smooth, like the characters are gliding around rather than walking or running, the effect is more pronounced when sprinting. The only indication that you’re sprinting at all is the weapon animation, there’s little impression of speed. It’s actually worse than Halo in this regard, and that’s actually a tough ask.

Climbing is still not ideal. The problem with first person platforming/climbing is that spacial awareness is not great. because moving your “head” in a particular direction also moves you in that direction it can be difficult to judge where edges are while moving, particularly if you’ve got to be quick. If future CoJ games are made they might think about allowing 3rd person mode for rope climbing etc.


We’ll start with the good.

The Multiplayer has a few good ideas. I like the notion of “bounty”. Each player starts with a bounty of $100 on their heads, that means when you kill a player you earn $100. For every kill you score the bounty on YOUR head increases, increasing higher still if substantial killstreaks are made (2, 4, 8 etc). It means that the rewards are higher for taking out higher skilled players (and campers – more on that later) and picking on noobs doesn’t carry much of a reward, which I think is pretty cool. I also like the poker theme of the killstreaks “pair” “straight” “flush” etc, that’s pretty cool.

The bounty system also has an impact on the dynamic of the deathmatch system (dubbed Shootout) as the win is based on the bounty an individual player has on their head, therefore very skilled players who manage a lot of high value killstreaks can win very quickly as opposed to the traditional “first to x kills wins”.

I quite enjoyed two of the multiplayer game modes in particular, the first being Wild West Legends and the second Manhunt.

In Wild West Legends one team are given a series of objectives that basically involve planting dynamite in various sequential locations, the other team defend the locations until a timer runs down or until the attacking team succeed. It’s quite a fun mode if it isn’t infested with spawn campers (more on that later) and the teams are even. There’s a nice edginess when you kill a guy a microsecond before he defuses your dynamite, or on the other hand charge into the bank, kill all the bandits and defuse their dynamite a microsecond before it blows. Those are good feelings, those are the moments you play games for, and this game can deliver those moments – as long as the other players are there to play the game and not be dirty spawn camping bastards (more on that later).

Manhunt is another team game, this time each team takes turns attempting to protect their “Wanted Man” for a whole minute in order to score while the opposing team attempt to kill the Wanted Man to prevent scoring and bring their turn earlier. The enjoyment you garner from Manhunt will depend on the map you play, as some fall victim of various spawn point shitstorms the developers included in the game (more on that later).

Now for the bad.

Some poor level design coupled with a spawn system that can only be described as bat-shit mental (at best) can lead to some ultra frustrating multiplayer experiences.

It seems to me that the issue seems to one of QA, some levels play absolutely fine, others are a complete mess.

Some of the game types have static spawn points, most of these have spawn points extremely close to and in some cases actually in sight of the game objectives, this makes spawn camping pretty easy to do and thus an extremely tempting proposition for some players, unfortunately too many BiB players give in to that temptation.

Playing with spawn campers is not fun, even if you’re on their team. If you’re a victim of spawn campers you get the frustration of getting locked in an endless cycle of deaths and respawns. It is a pretty damned sweet feeling if you manage to catch the spawn camper before they get you, but it’s still not a great experience. As for being on the spawn campers team, well with the camper taking out all the opposition before they even get out of their spawn point there isn’t much game for you to actually play, you end up sitting there waiting for the timer to run down. Boring. You start to wish friendly fire was allowed in this game…

Other game types have semi-static spawn points, i.e. there are a number of spawn points throughout the level and players are spawned to whichever point the game feels is most appropriate. Why the game ever feels that it’s appropriate to spawn members of opposite teams at the SAME spawn points, or spawn points in clear view of each other, or at spawn points where enemy team members are close by is totally beyond me, but it does, and it does so with stunning regularity. It’s a source of much frustration, particularly in a full 12 player game when the kills are coming thick and fast, to spawn, move less than 10 paces and then be shot in the back by a dude who just spawned in the exact same place you did is not pleasant. To kill a dude who then spawns right behind you 8 seconds later and shoots you in the back is not a pleasant experience, but this is the design of BiB, and it’s an irritatingly regular experience.

Little tip on improving your chances of finding a good game: use the custom game search, set all the criteria to any/no limit etc, set it up right and it’ll show you all the game lobbies currently available of all types, all maps, player numbers and hosts. I learned that certain hosts pretty much always look to spawn camp or otherwise play dirty, using this method you can at least avoid them when they host. It’s also useful for picking up the “Been There Done That” Achievement, you can cherry pick the maps you need for the achievement rather than going for the crapshoot that is Quick Match.


As it stands I’m sitting at 895 Gamerscore with 3 left to score.

Aside from completing the game on Very Hard all the single player achievements are fairly easy. A few of the took me a couple of tries, but provided you have a look through the Achievement list before you start you should manage most of them in a single playthrough. One thing I liked about the Achievements in the original CoJ was that each chapter had a unique Achievement, like a wee extra goal to shoot for, a challenge you normally wouldn’t think of going for in the course of normal play. For BiB the developers haven’t gotten as creative and there are fewer of such achievements and they seem more straight forward, but at least it’s not 95% story progression Achievements like the majority of games.

The only single player achievement I’m not shooting for is Very Hard completion. Far too frustrating, I did the 1st mission and it took an hour, I was shot through cover that had actually been cover when I played through on Hard, I can’t face another 10+ missions like that. No thanks.

Getting all the Multiplayer achievements will require an investment of some serious game hours without boosting. There’s an Achievement for earning $1 million in multiplayer cash (Which I don’t have, but am considering boosting). In my experience the fastest way is to play Manhunt against skilled opponents (who’ll amass some serious bounty on their heads) and kill a lot of them, particularly near the end of the round. Against crappy opposition you’ll be looking at $10,000 per 20 minute round, against good guys you might make as much as $30,000, say $20,000 average. 50 games, 20 mins each, that’s almost 17 hours of pure Manhunt, take into account all the waiting for games to populate, that’s an awful lot of time. The other multiplayer achievements are relatively easy to get unless you’re incredibly unlucky in drawing teams (or incredibly shit).


Ultimately BiB has a reasonably solid single player campaign and a story you’ll love if you played through CoJ, the multiplayer can be a frustrating experience, but it has the potential to be incredibly fun.

If you have the urge to play a Western-themed FPS BiB isn’t the worst choice you could go for.

And Buy yourself some nice guns, you don’t need the cash.

I’m freedoms_stain, and I’ve had enough of games without automatic weaponry, out.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

How Achievements Should Be

In my opinion the introduction of "Achievements" to this generation of gaming was a fantastic idea. I look at it like an extra layer of challenge, yeah sure, you beat the game, but look at all these OTHER challenges, can you do these? There's also the potential for added longevity and replay value for titles you may otherwise only bother playing once, so that's another string to the bow as far as I'm concerned.

Of course not all developers get it right when they dream up the Achievements for their games. Too many developers have failed to recognise when an achievement presents an actual challenge to the playerband leaves them with a sense of achievement when actually achieved versus boring grinders which don't present any real challenge and leave the player not with a sense of achievement, but rather a sense of having wasted a lot of time for meagre reward.

A few weeks ago I completed the 2008 installment of Prince of Persia with a full 1000 gamerscore (excluding dlc) a fair portion of the games achievements revolved around collection of an entity known Aeneas "light seeds". 541 light seeds are obtained in the normal course of the game, a maximum of 1001 are present in the game. The extraneous 460 light seeds are pure Achievement fodder, but they're not hard to find. Less than 10 of the 1001 seeds in the entire game presented me with any difficulty in collectingn So did I feel any great sense of achievement when the *plink* notification came up upon seed 1001. No, not really.

Collecting things for no purpose, particularly things which aren't even difficult to find do not make for challenging worthwhile achievements.
Give me something enjoyable to to, something clever and challenging that will enhance my disposition towards you, the development studio, rather than curse you for wasting my precious time, or even entertaining it.
Enter Valve.

Last Week me and my good friend Michael popped the achievement "Bridge Over Trebled Slaughter" in Left 4 Dead 2.
It was pretty awesome.

The requirement is for all (living) survivors to make it across the bridge finale to the rescue vehicle in less than 3 minutes.
It's a good achievement for several reasons, you're presented with a genuine challenge, something outwith the normal scope of the game that requires a bit of a game-changing strategy, normally we'd just proceed at a fairly leisurely pace, fighting our way through and covering each others ashes, but take away time and you've got a whole other dimension to the level.

It's fun! This took us 3 or 4 tries, to pop, there's a real sense of exhilaration as you blast down this one-way zombie track knowing full-well that every hit taken, every mis-timed jump has the potential to cost you the goal, and of course there's the special infected, all of whom have delaying abilities that threaten that 3 minute deadline.

This is also a cooperative achievement. I suppose it might be possible to solo it, but it's better as a two man job. If for nothing more than the fact that two mob-clearing pipe bombs are infinitely better than one.
If you're familiar with the game then you're probably aware that it's 4 player co-op - we had to execute the bots. Ellis, Rochelle, you are without a doubt the shittest characters in the L4D franchise. I was happy to do it.
Other game developers should take note. I want to see more achievements like this that make me think and make me work, and less of the time consuming collection irk.

I've been freedoms_stain, gamerscore where, out.

Monday, 30 August 2010

I Never Learn

At least, this is how it feels sometimes.
The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west, therefore when I get on the train/bus it's always always ALWAYS gonna be the same side of the train/bus that has the eye searing, brain melting sun beating down upon it preventing me from reading, pissing about on my phone or even thinking (which I find a near impossibility in any sort of heat).
Given the severe disadvantages of the sunny side of the vehicle (from my perspective anyhoo, some people may enjoy partial blindness and liquified warm brains draining out their ears) you'd think I'd have learned to pick a suitable seat by now eh? No. Not really. You see as a particularly long-legged gentleman my 1st criteria is generally leg room. Most public transport is either ancient or designed (I can only assume) as midget transport, therefore I often find myself sitting in the middle of bus seats splayed to such an extreme degree it's a hairs breadth from pain.
And the thing is, after you've sat down there's a bit of mental prohibition to actually moving. It's weird, I don't know what it is, but it feels like once you're arse is on a seat one should not move it until one has arrived at their destination. Really a bizarre state of affairs.
I can only conclude that I am insane.
I've been freedoms_stain, squinting at his phone screen through the eyeball searing sun, but hey at least this train is air conditioned, out.

Ipod Earphones Fucking Suck

Whenever you're on the train, on the bus or at their relevant respective stop or station and you can hear music emanating from the head region of some nearby and seemingly totally oblivious individual you can, with an almost 100% hit rate look for the white line and trace it to one end which will reveal a gleaming set of Apple earbuds (likely one sharp head movement away from making a bid for freedom) and to the other where you will find some form of iPish clutched previously in their sweaty little hands.
This happens because Apple earbuds are shite in almost every conceivable way. That's ok, a massive %age of pmp's (portable music players) come with shite headphones. You're supposed to stuff them in a drawer to be dragged out and used for a short while when the decent pair with decent bass response and minimal noise-bleed (you bought because pmp's always come with shite earphones) pack it in and you're waiting for an opportunity to get your hands on a replacement set. That's the deal. That's how it works.
But not, it seems, if you own a pmp made by Apple.
Ordinarily I'm an "each to their own" type guy, but this is NOT each to their own, it's to everyone within a surprisingly large radius.
Therefore I implore thee Apple earbuds wearers, if yours are the type that act more like ear-mounted mega-speakers than personal earphones get em the fuck in a drawer and buy yourself something with decent sound insulation and start enjoying your music more! That's right! Hear the bass and all the other frequencies in glorious clarity! Spend enough and you can even get some noise cancelling or at least reducing earphones then you can find out how to adjust the volume to a value less than 100%! (wouldn't that be a novelty)
I've been freedoms_stain, cheers, ta, goodbye.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Meh I say, Meh!

Another Grand Slam passes and once again it's Roger or Rafa on the trophy - Rafa incidentally - Meh.
But this time I was there! Well, not for the final, I was there on the 2nd Wednesday, aka men's Quarter Finals day. We were on Centre Court which was pretty freakin awesome. 1st up was Roger Federer vs Tomas Berdych followed by Andy Murray vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Two very high quality matches, and when Berdych conquered Federer I thought to myself "Holy Shit! We might have a non Roger or Rafa champion!", after all Nadals Wimbledon performance hadn't exactly been stellar up until that point, he'd been through two 5 set matches already vs low rankers, surely once he reaches the Quarters or the Semis he's toast, right?
Well toast he did not become, rather his Semi vs Murray and indeed the Final vs Berdych were 2 of his most commanding wins of the tournament, although to be fair Murray did produce chances, unfortunately the Spaniard prove too good at wrangling himself out of bother.
The American hard court swing is looming on the horizon, hard courts are where most players feel most comfortable so things tend to even out a bit after the clay and grass seasons that favour specialists.
As ever we'll be looking to former US Open juniors champ and 2008 finalist Andy Murray to bring home the 1st British Grand Slam win of the Open Era.
No pressure like man.
freedoms_stain, out.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Cameron unveils 'elected PM' plan

Cameron unveils 'elected PM' plan: "David Cameron outlines plans for a new rule that anyone taking over as PM between elections must call one within six months." We don't elect Prime Ministers, we elect candidates from our own constituencies. This is a stupid idea, one which demonstrates that David Cameron has no intention of instigating electoral reform. There would be absolutely no need for this if we had Proportional elections for The Commons, The Lords and FPTP for the Prime Minister, but that's not what Cameron wants, he wants FPTP all over because he's a dick! freedoms_stain, out.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

General Election Time: Who To Vote For?

The UK General Election is almost upon us, May the 6th to be precise, and the big question on every set of lips is "Who's gonna win?".

The press, the polls and even the average joe on the street seemed to have David Cameron and his Conservatives winning by a landslide - that was until Thursday.

On Thursday the first Prime Ministerial debate took place on ITV and according to the majority of pollsters Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats was a clear winner, in some cases by a rather wide margin.

The results of the debate seem to have blown shit right open with the Lib Dems climbing the opinion polls at a rate of knots and people who historically would not have considered voting Lib Dem because "they can't win" are now taking a closer look.

For you see Ladies and Gents contrary to what Labour and the Conservatives would have you believe it's not a two horse race, it is NOT a two party system, there will not be two candidates on your ballot, there will likely to be closer to a dozen if not more some from different parties and some will be independents. And get this, you can choose ANY OF THEM! Honest, you're not restricted to Labour or Tory!

Ok, so we don't have a Two Party system, but our electoral system is pretty conducive to developing one as we've seen in the last, what, 65 years? What we have is a First-Past-The-Post system. Most votes wins and that's it. That sounds pretty fair on first glance, but think of it this way: if 6 candidates stand and 5 of those candidates get 15% of the votes each and one gets 25% then the 25% candidate gets the seat even though 75% of the electorate did not vote for him/her. To me that means 75% of the constituents in that constituency don't have representation in Government. 

Now you might be thinking "Hang about, you can still petition your MP even if you didn't vote for them" and indeed you can, but this'll do you little good thanks to another shitty stalwart of British Governance: The Whip System. 

The Whip system is the manner in which Political Parties in the UK "control" their MPs. So if you petition your MP and ask him to vote "Nay" and his Party Whip has ordered "Yay" then you're probably shit out of luck. In a choice between party and constituents and conscience the majority of MPs historically go with Party. I believe this is an injustice and an affront to democracy.

Back to the f-p-t-p system being conducive to a two-party system, which I almost glossed over. It's due to the retarded principle of "tactical voting". If there is some absolute cunt of a party in charge then people will tend to vote "tactically" for the party they feel have the most chance of displacing the cunts in power (even if philosophically they score only slightly lower on the cunt scale) rather than the party that most suits their views. Again it's not particularly democratic as people aren't voting for their own views, more like against the views of others.

When you look at the breakdown of Popular Vote Vs Seats gained for any given UK General Election (2005 is the most recent) you see the real impact of the f-p-t-p system. Labour in 2005 obtained 36.91% of the popular vote yet 55.11% of the seats, The Conservatives obtained only 3% less votes than labour but only 30% of the seats. So the views of Labour supporters are currently far over-represented in Parliament while Conservative supporters are slightly under-represented. The real dick-in-the-face however are the results for the Liberal Democrats who saw 23.09% of the popular vote but only 9.6% of seats. 

First-Past-The-Post, democratic? Hardly seems it, does it? The answer would appear to be a form of Proportional Representation which would see Popular Vote and seats-gained aligning more closely.

But that's irrelevant for now as the election on May 6th will employ f-p-t-p. So who should you vote for? Well, I'm not going to tell you.

Visit that site, take the survey and see what you get, you might be surprised by what you get.

I got 44% Green, 33% Lib Dem, 11% Conservative and 11% UKIP.


That's all for now, I'll just leave you with the wee fact that Proportional Representation is a core Liberal Democrat policy and the next debates are on Sky News on the 22nd and BBC1 on the 29th.

I've been freedoms_stain, it's good to be back, out. 

Friday, 16 April 2010

Pope says Church must do penance

Pope says Church must do penance: "Pope Benedict XVI says the Catholics need to 'do penance', in an apparent reference to the child sexual abuse scandal." How about some jail time?

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

'No malpractice' by climate unit

'No malpractice' by climate unit: "There was no scientific malpractice at the unit at the centre of the 'Climategate' affair, a panel says." This is entirely unsurprising it has to be said, the comments singled out as evidence of statistical fiddling were taken completely out of context and with poor understanding of scientific jargon. Score one for Science.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Dawkins backs plan to arrest Pope

Dawkins backs plan to arrest Pope: "Leading atheist Richard Dawkins backs a campaign to have the Pope arrested for 'crimes against humanity'." If there is indeed a case to be answered then the case should be answered. Priests are not above the law and the Pope is not above the law. If he is covering for abusers then he should be treated as an acomplice.

Tories pledge to empower voters

Tories pledge to empower voters: "The Conservatives are launching their manifesto with a pledge to give people more control over their lives." How about instating a PRoportional Electoral System? Nah. Cowards.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Christmas, Snow And All That Jazz.

So aside from my little confession earlier I've been pretty quiet lately. Last time I posted I mentioned my new job which has of course contributed to my silence - I've got quite a long commute and I'd been putting in quite long hours in my first couple of weeks to fit around
the schedules of my new colleagues who've been showing me the ropes - so the last thing I want to do at the end of a day in that kind of situation is contribute yet more mental effort (aside from learning 3 dozen new names and a fuck-tonne of new science) towards composing any sort of worthwhile blog entry.

Then came "The Holidays". Work closed on the 23rd and reopened on the 5th of January. In between that time I had my first Christmas away from home - this year spending it instead with my girlfriends family in England. T'was certainly different - some of that for the better,
some for the worse :p. On the whole it wasn't a bad few days, and spending the festive season with Helen was certainly worth it, even being asked who I was every 5 minutes (not kidding or exaggerating) by her senile grandpa who was actually a lovely man, wish I could have got to know him before his memory had degraded.

Christmas being Christmas I got a bunch of new stuff some of which I look forward to talking about in a great deal more detail later on :D Suffice it to say for now that I've finally given in and got me a current-gen HD capable console.

On to New Year!

Well we didn't actually do anything, it was just me, Helen and a couple of bottles of booze. It wasn't much, but everyone who matters was there.

And now it's back to work. I've just finished Day Number Two back, am (was, didn't finish) in fact writing this on the bus home, it's a slow start due to the nature of the work, certain things have to be done before we can actually start, and these things take time!
Oh, and before I forget: Bloody Snow!
Never in my life have I seen snow lie for full weeks in Scotland, this year it has, tonnes of the stuff, everywhere, the BBC have a satellite image of the UK and the whole thing is white top to bottom, the only visible greenery in the whole of the British Isles is a smidgen at the bottom of the Republic of Ireland.
I've seriously had enough. It makes my commute to and from work hellish, the snow on its own wouldn't be so bad, but the sub-zero temperatures make the trek from the bus stop to work and back really difficult, hurts to breathe out my poor nose so I end up pulling my scarf over it and breathing out my mouth which leads to major glasses steaming :( it's not fun. And of course the pavements are all fucked, snow over ice, it's all bumpy and hard to tread on, takes twice the length of time to walk anywhere.
Fuck snow! piss off for another year eh?
freedoms_stain, cold, out.

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Wednesday, 6 January 2010

I've become addicted

To Rice Krispies Squares.

I fear for my loved ones...

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